Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said Tuesday that the Aggies’ 2020 nonconference football game with Fresno State is not in jeopardy despite the announcement earlier this month by the California State University System that its member schools would hold the majority of its fall classes online.
A&M is set to host Fresno State, a California State school, on Oct. 10 at Kyle Field. A&M also has a home game scheduled with the Pac-12 Conference’s Colorado on Sept. 19, and Bjork said he expects both games to be played.
“I talked with both athletic directors at Fresno State and the University of Colorado and their comments were, ‘We’re coming to Kyle Field. Count on us being there,’” Bjork said on his bi-weekly Zoom press conference.
Bjork said he is constantly in contact with other athletic directors to scope the pulse of college football and what might happen this fall if the effects of the coronavirus pandemic delay the season. As of now, the general consensus among programs is to plan as if it will start on time.
“We are all kind of aware of all the moving parts, but there is nothing that you can really put in to writing or have a backup plan yet, because there’s just too much uncertainty,” Bjork said. “It’s way too early.”
A&M’s game contracts with Fresno State and Colorado, obtained by The Eagle via open records request, contain “act of God” clauses, which can break the agreement without compensation for acts that are not within the control of the parties.
A&M will pay Fresno State $1.3 million for traveling to College Station for this year’s game, according to the contract. Should Fresno State break the contract without cause, it will owe A&M $1 million.
For the home-and-home series with Colorado, each home school will pay the visitor $500,000. Should a school terminate the contract without cause, it will owe the other school $750,000, per the contract.
Concerns have been raised about the Pac-12 schools returning at the same time, and one option for A&M should its game with Colorado be canceled is a meeting with Texas Tech, which is scheduled to host the Pac-12’s Arizona on the same day. Bjork said he has not spoken with Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt on the matter.
“Kirby and I have known each other for a long time, but we have not talked scheduling or anything like that,” Bjork said. “But that’s the stuff that you look at, right? You look at all those different things and you stay on top of the potential.”
The season is still over three months away, and Bjork said the decision to cancel a game can be made much closer to game day, especially with athletic directors across the country remaining in constant contact. He also said he is continuing to see data and have conversations that indicate an optimistic approach towards playing in the fall.
“We still need to do all the practices that are in place, but yes, there seems to be more confidence as time goes on,” Bjork said. “We’re starting to see a lot more positive momentum and a lot of reopenings, not only in our region but around the country, so those are all positives.”
A&M’s first two 2020 opponents, Abilene Christian and North Texas, are making bus trips to College Station, according to both school’s media information departments, which makes traveling easier, Bjork said.
Until concrete decisions can be made closer to the season, Bjork said his focus remains on taking steps to reopen athletic facilities to student-athletes. The NCAA is set to vote Wednesday on allowing on-campus summer activities to resume on Wednesday, according to Sports Illustrated. The Southeastern Conference is reportedly going to vote Friday to allow facilities to reopen to student-athletes, following proper social distancing guidelines. Currently, all SEC athletic programs are banned from using their facilities and holding in-person workouts until May 31.
Bjork said he hopes A&M can resume voluntary workouts starting June 1, giving his athletes an option for fitness other than public gyms.
“We believe that we can screen them when they walk in,” Bjork said. “We know who is around them. We can keep the social distancing. We can stagger it throughout the days, and we have four weight rooms in our athletic complex. That’s why we believe that our student-athletes would be safer within our facilities.”